Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Changing the way we think about animal control

Much has changed in the field of animal control in the past five years. We know how to end the killing of all healthy adoptable dogs and cats. We know how to implement cost effective, community supported feral cat programs, low cost spay/neuter services and proactive adoption programs. Many animal shelters across the country have no only embraced the No Kill philosophy, but more important the programs and services that make that possible.

One would think that with all this success is saving shelter pets innovative communities like Gwinnett would be leading the charge at our own shelter – but it is not.

After an exhaustive study on how our county provides it’s advise our animal related issues it became apparent that the system was broken.  Detailed documents on every Animal Advisory Council meeting in the years from 2006 through the summer of 2008 showed an alarming disconnection with issues that plagued our shelter.

It became apparent that we not only needed to reform how we ran our shelter but more importantly how we developed our animal welfare policies and restore confidence with pet owners in the community.

The “Animal Advisory Council Reform Resolution” tackles the difficult process of how we provide expert advise to our political process in developing a long term animal welfare program that not only meets the expectations of the community but more importantly looks at programs that will reduce the cost of animal control moving forward while putting an end to the killing on healthy dogs and cats that our shelter is supposed to protect.

The credit for this resolution goes to AAC members Carla Brown and Tim Montgomery who worked diligently in finding common ground. The resolution is up for consideration by our commissioners is collaboration with the current animal advisory council who passed this resolution without dissent.

As in any change – the “devil is in the details” – here is precisely what these changes are::

The membership changes from the current seven members to eleven. Only two positions were left intact under the new makeup of the board, they are the Lawrenceville Kennel Club and the Gwinnett Municpal Association retains.

The Gwinnett County Extension Service position was eliminated and replaced with a representative from the “Livestock Animals”

Gwinnett Humane Society’s position has been eliminated and replaced with a representative for the “Gwinnett Rescue community”.

The Feline Interest position remains but will be filled by a representative from the Feline Rescue community specifically with experience in developing a feral cat program.

The two “Member at Large” positions have been eliminated and replaced with one member being appointed by each commissioner’s district and a representative appointed by the county Chair. This will form the direct communication link between the advisory council and the board of commissioners that has been lacking.

The advisory council will no longer report findings and recommendations to animal control and the Gwinnett Police Department but instead forward these recommendations directly to the Board of Commissioners. The GAAC will forward only those recommendations that have been approved by majority vote.

It will remain the responsibility of the Board of Commissioners to make final decisions on all recommendations submitted.

There are also procedural issues that were addressed.

Officers elected to the same office will have a two-year term limit.

Two Year Term Limit on chair position.

Members can set up subcommittees that investigate specific issues/problems without approval from animal control or the GPD.  This will set in motion creating subcommittees to investigate solutions for problems like feral cats, building a no kill community and developing an animal services unit that serves and educates the community on responsible pet ownership.  This coalition building will bring together many of the experts in animal welfare who have been disenfranchised from the process.

This is not cosmetic change - this is changing our animal welfare culture.  This is about opening up the door for others to join in on the discussion and participate in the process.

The most significant change comes with HOW this group will study issues.

Section 12 – Committees – The chairman may appoint, with concurrence of the GAAC, various standing and temporary committees to further proposals of the GAAC. Such committees may include members of the staff of various county departments, residents and business owners of the county whose background and knowledge may be a benefit of the GAAC in accomplishing it’s goals.

The purpose of the committees shall be to make detailed investigations, stidies and recommendations to the GAAC as instructed pertaining to matters or classes of matters within it’s purview.

The Chairman or Vice-Chairman shall be an ex-officio member of all committees.

This step alone opens up the process of developing breakthrough thinking leading the way towards solving long-term problems with animal issues in our community.

We now stand on the mountain of change.  While our efforts have brought us to this pinacle - it will be YOUR efforts that decide our county's destiny.   The question is "do we want to slip backwards and return to the valley of failure and doom" or do we want to march boldly on to the promised land that embraces life saving thinking instead.  I think we know that answer.

Please write your commissioner and ask for their support in passing this resolution.

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